Do you enjoy case studies? I do, especially when those case studies are about social media and content marketing.
At one point, I used to share examples I came across via Twitter using the hashtags #retailexp and #practicalmktr. And, then recap those tweets in blog articles. Eventally - in September 2011 - I created a first compendium in an article titled 100+ Case Studies: Social Media Marketing Examples.
A year later, on September 4th, 2012, I published a follow up article detailing 200+ case studies of social media and content marketing examples shared on Twitter from September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2012.
Fast forward to 2017. Social media and content marketing have evolved considerably. Although there are plenty of new examples, those original stories remain inspiring. I hope you enjoy the combination of classic and new case studies.
To help sort through the categories, I've created the following table of contents.
Airlines and Social Media
The best (and worst) ways airlines use Twitter for customer service
Singapore Airlines finally discovers Facebook, Twitter http://ow.ly/6L1PL
How JetBlue Deals with Social Media Whiners - "JetBlue, for example, has one customer service policy that it adheres to. And it uses it across the board, regardless of how consumers are getting in touch. There have been instances where the company has had to revamp its policy. Consistency is really important via social media channels, since they are so public. “If you are going to do something for one person be prepared to do it for everyone, whether they have a lot of followers or not,” he said."
10 Social Media stars includes JetBlueow.ly/btY8o
American Airlines engages via social media in sincere authentic way ow.ly/d4OoM
Tweeting without fear with examples from @SouthwestAir http://ow.ly/8qtma
Alcohol Brands and Social Media
Please Tweet Responsibly: The Future Of Alcohol Brands On Twitter
How spirits producer Beam uses digital & social to extend customer experience ow.ly/bDmkW
Nicely done Jack Daniels with your cease/desist letter ow.ly/czMqf
Valuable PR lessons from Heineken's bizarre dog-fighting crisis ow.ly/arp5Q
How one small company is using QR codes: Sacre Bleu wines
Banking and Social Media
The 13 most interesting investment banks on Twitter right now
Social business and banking: transforming banking with social media http://ow.ly/7k6Gs
WSJ article about Banks going social: http://ow.ly/7LXjU Wouldn't it be more social to ditch fees & really listen to customers?
3 Financial Services Companies online, doing content & social ow.ly/83cDY
Role of social media in financial services marketing: insights including from @FrankEliason when he was with Citi ow.ly/b1T6F
Example of Social Media + Financial Planning: what's your story? ow.ly/cpycp
First Look: BankSimple's iPhone App Aims To Reimagine Your Money
Big Banks struggle to help customers on Twitter
10 Social Media stars includes Capital 1ow.ly/btY8o
Beauty & Personal Product Brands and Social Media
#LONGREAD: Is Twitter Still Relevant For Fashion Brands?
L'Oreal advises men on perfect facebook profile picture. http://ow.ly/6exu1
L'Oreal leverages social media for customer service, brand loyalty ow.ly/7k4dU.
How Orabrush went from YouTube to 3500 Walmart stores using social media http://ow.ly/6Ej0U.
Here's the YouTube video from Orabrush: http://ow.ly/6GO2P
Thought-provoking brand examples re: how to use Pinterest creatively ow.ly/aJixX
Kotex, one of 3 brands bridging online + offline ow.ly/c5EbJ
Big Business and Social Media
19 Best Examples of How Top Brands Use Twitter
Real people vs. stock photos. G'by IBM happy man! Love this story ow.ly/6YZJk
FastCo describes 7 reasons for embracing social business with IBM as example http://ow.ly/6xKgq
Social and digital case study: Adobe http://ow.ly/aJmij
Insight on GE's digital strategy: ow.ly/bkwdY
How Xerox integrates Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube selectively ow.ly/bDkDA
J&J's priorities for 2012: social, mobile: ow.ly/b1ZVq
Did you know Caterpillar uses social media to capture customer preferences for products ow.ly/bN4sv
McKinsey perspective on how social media could add $1.3T to economy. ow.ly/d4lbe
10 Social Media stars includes Google ow.ly/btY8o. Here's a Google newspaper ad giggle: to demonstrate ads don't work. Or do they? ow.ly/d4kyn
Harnessing Power of Social Media: interview with Barry Libert: Important to focus outward
Car Brands and Social Media
A Look At How Car Brands Are Effectively Using Social Media
What do you think re: introducing new car via social media game? Ford + Zynga for Escape ow.ly/7zChN
Thought-provoking brand examples re: how to use Pinterest creatively ow.ly/aJixX [Peugeot]
3 brands bridging online + offline, Honda [Pinterest] ow.ly/c5EbJ
Ferrari uses social media to drive visitors to microsite ow.ly/aSDP1
Very cool: travel for free across country using social media. Audi experiment: ow.ly/d4kmi
Great examples: how car dealerships use social media to reach customers http://ow.ly/6xRNK
Perspective on Big Brands [i.e GM] & Facebook ads ow.ly/bkr77
Casinos and Social Media
Become the Scorsese of Social Media Video: 12 Tips for Casinos
Did you know? social media pays off for casinos, customers http://ow.ly/68vfa
Dentists and Social Media
Dentists using social media, online marketing to get found, connect with customers ow.ly/7Y389
Design and Social Media
Social Media for Designers: Instagram
Reinventing Design + social media: @Modenus BOB Magazine
Disaster Communications and Social Media
CROWDSOURCING DISASTER RELIEF: Leveraging Big Data to Coordinate Disaster Response and Recovery
How different social media tools fit into disaster communication plans. From FastCo http://ow.ly/6tzjX
Using social to match blood donors and recipients. Wow! ow.ly/8ayf8
Stay tuned: disaster relief in social media age, including fr FEMA ow.ly/bN4zl
Education/Museum and Social Media
Please Turn On Your Phone in the Museum
Social Media Marketing Lessons: The Met's Sree Sreenivasan #BRITEConf
Google+ as means to opening social networking to K-12 schools. Wow! http://ow.ly/6ElO7
Social media case study: Brooklyn Museum. Lesson: don't spread too thin. Great discussion in comments
Entertainment and Social Media
Making businesses “fan”-centric requires functional transformation.
What brands can learn from Lady Gaga from @deniseleeyohn http://ow.ly/6qUon
Disney Interactive VP speaks re future of #Mobile Advertising. bit.ly/v6b9T1
Inside Disney's Social strategy
10 SoMe stars Disney ow.ly/btY8o
What Lionsgate did differently creating pre-Hunger Games buzz: ow.ly/aiYkM
Great #practicalmktr perspective on Cirque du Soleil's social strategy: ow.ly/btX3E
Marvelous scientific + social media experiment: live tweeting National Zoo Panda artificial insemination ow.ly/bkrmF
Reference resource: 5 all time best Facebook Campaigns via @FastCo http://ow.ly/b1XuD -A&E
Fashion and Social Media
How fashion brands are taking Instagram from gimmick to strategic
How social media adds value to Fashion's Night Out; savvy retailers use it to build relationships http://ow.ly/6L0Xn
Did you catch live streaming of Fashion Week? Making fashion more immediate, accessible http://ow.ly/6L1cN
Food Brands and Social Media
5 Food & Beverage Brands That Lead in Social Media Marketing
Connecting With Customers In A World of Demand: Doritos At #BRITEconf 2015
3 brands bridging online + offline: Red Bull [FB] ow.ly/c5EbJ
How Conagra's brands build online communities http://ow.ly/5WXgw
How Beef industry in Australia uses social media for promotion
9 social media crisis questions Dole failed to answer ow.ly/arpip
Using Twitter to sell ice cream treats ow.ly/7eUHB
Cadbury turns to Google+ to launch Bubbly bar and Searching For A Social Edge: One Brand’s Google+ Story
Food Outlets and Social Media
How Naked Pizza uses Twitter: http://ow.ly/6qTxi Genuine #practicalmktr humor!
10 Social Media stars include Starbucks, McDonalds ow.ly/btY8o
Brand marketing interview: how Starbucks transformed coffee from commodity to brand http://t.co/Wg8yPvTi.
The Starbucks Card makes transactions social from @TheBeanCast http://t.co/tdBe4IBr
How California Tortilla handles customer feedback online. Notice consistent, co-wide approach http://ow.ly/6L0HZ
Reference resource: 5 all time best Facebook Campaigns via @FastCo http://ow.ly/b1XuD includes Burger King
KFC Twitter account has fun with @NYTChicken aka Sexy Chicken ow.ly/76i7o
Love this success story of social media + traditional PR for @cupcakestophttp://ow.ly/80Y3V
From SXSW: What food truck owners can teach you about social media
Using social media to build internal teams: Red Robin ow.ly/bDkiW
How Chuck E. Cheese uses social media to engage with diff audiences ow.ly/bDmg9
Domino's posts online order comments on NYC Times Square billboard http://ow.ly/5RjPY
Government and Social Media
Social Media in Government: Benefits, Challenges, and How it’s Used
I love crowd-sourced concepts. This one funded by US Dept of Defense to crowdsource military tactics http://ow.ly/6tE5K
The Army’s social media handbook. Updated and with commentary http://ow.ly/6xRo6
Marines have released social media handbook. Now actively use tools of social media
Love CDC's use of social media and humor to help peeps prepare for [zombie] apocalypse ow.ly/76h5r
Marvelous how social media contributed to Mars Curiosity Roverow.ly/cUL5i
Brilliantly real and real-time: NATO and Taliban slug it out on Twitter ow.ly/8hria
Using social media to rebut government extremists' messages. ow.ly/8tHQg
UN Global Pulse monitors data for real-time signals re: food, economy, jobs 19 min video http://ow.ly/bbcrc
Using Twitter to track epidemics ow.ly/7zOUB
Hospitality and Social Media
Social Hospitality: How 8 Hotels Engage Guests On & Offline
Starwood leverage social media for customer service, brand loyalty ow.ly/7k4dU
Four Seasons Hotel leans on social to act local. Details: ow.ly/b1Z7z
Insurance and Social Media
How Zurich Insurance Uses Social Media, with Keith Lewis
Case study: Farmers Insurance helps agents use Facebook for ROI ow.ly/czvqj
Law Enforcement and Social Media
Digital Threats: How Law Enforcement Uses Social Media to Fight Crime
And how social media can help track the bad guys ow.ly/7zQ7l
How social media can help FBI solve crimes ow.ly/7zQ1N
Fascinating use of Google+: police present portrait of crime ow.ly/8qsR5
How Boston Police uses Twitter, texting for crime tips: ow.ly/aiYXR
Different perspective on 'getting found online': search, future of crime ow.ly/cfr6m
Social media in action with police: ow.ly/czvn9
Libraries and Social Media
How Libraries Are Using Social Media Expanding online toolkits to promote advocacy
AUSTRIAN CITY BECOMES A LIBRARY WITH QR CODES AND NFC STICKERS INSTEAD OF BOOKS - Klagenfurt created a new project putting scannable stickers around relevant locations allowing users to download digital content.
The Bookless Library - Don’t deny the change. Direct it wisely. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.
Luxury Brands and Social Media
Luxury Brands and Social Media Marketing - Dos and Don'ts
Top 10 social media luxury marketers of Q3
Luxury e-retailers trounce manufacturers in engaging online shoppers
How customized QR codes can drive CRM
FastCo re: Facebook for the Famous gets at social network terms of service & who owns what http://ow.ly/7uhOS
Thought-provoking brand examples re: H2 use Pinterest creatively ow.ly/aJixX
Learn about Oscar de la Renta, role of social media. Great job @OscarPRGirl ow.ly/6Z0LO
Have you read this FastCo story about Ralph Lauren's digital evolution? Fascinating #retailexp http://ow.ly/62VNu
Brooks Brothers Plays It Cool in Social Marketing - In social media marketing, Brooks Brothers is like an aloof bon vivant wearing a cool seersucker sports jacket on a humid summer day. The 194-year-old brand isn't frantically chasing friends and followers on social networks. Brooks Brothers is playing it cool. Instead, it's investing in tools and testing to improve the online shopping experience for customers and prospects - and increase sales.
Neiman Marcus is getting social and Neiman Marcus debuts first Foursquare challenge
How Burberry uses social networking for fashion catwalk show: ow.ly/6YZyG
Manufacturers and Social Media
8 companies doing social media right and what marketers can learn from them
BlendTec shows how to measure the effects of a social marketing strategy. The blender manufacturer uses coupon codes and analytics to track shoppers.
Small surf shop plans to overtake competitors with technology
Reference resource: 5 all time best Facebook Campaigns via @FastCo http://ow.ly/b1XuD - Intel
How Oxygenics used Facebook content to increase fan base: case study http://ow.ly/bDiCu
Media Brands and Social Media
From Social Fresh a crowdsourced Facebook Marketing Book http://ow.ly/6dWxd
News Organizations and Social Media
How the Press Use Social Media
Innovation lessons from Washington Post: http://ow.ly/6ElLF via FastCo
Time Magazine Google+ case study: ow.ly/czvIf
How Forbes uses social media. Fascinating! ow.ly/d4kLJ
How NPR media strategist Andy Carvin tweets revolutions. http://ow.ly/6L2bJ Fascinating
Reimagining newspaper reading as inherently social experience: WSJ on Facebook ow.ly/6Z0oJ
Philanthropy and Social MediaHOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HELP PHILANTHROPIC WORK?
How philanthropists can make use of social media: ow.ly/76ief
Politics and Social Media
The Political Environment on Social Media
Social media and politics. Here, the Republican perspective http://ow.ly/7LXrP
How political campaigns capitalize on Facebook ow.ly/8iHwz
Fascinating use of social networking to monitor political, global sentiment. ow.ly/8ay5n
Politicians and social media. Newt Gingrich & Facebook
Love social media + politics: why social media couldn't predict Iowa race ow.ly/8AW79
A digital perspective on politics and election related communications ow.ly/aroSe
Religion and Social Media
How social media is changing the church
Case study example: religion on Facebook, more specifically Jesus Daily http://ow.ly/6L4dl
Creative use of internet & social to connect with 'customers': Maine Convent recruits nuns: ow.ly/b20dI
In Sweden, Taking File Sharing To Heart and To Church
Bishops urged to embrace social media to evangelize effectively bit.ly/buUm0k
Retail - Big Box and Social Media
Worth watching: Walmart intends to reshape future of shopping #retailexp by mapping social genome http://ow.ly/6L2iK
How to beat Walmart on Facebook
Lowe's introduces revolutionary customer #retailexp: "MyLowes" http://ow.ly/6LCqr
Retailers discover useful in-store apps keep shoppers from escaping http://ow.ly/6Z1vt [Gap, Walmart, Target…]
Update on @HomeDepot's social media strategy ow.ly/6YYSM
PayPal Test Program Will Let Home Depot Shoppers Pay at Checkout
Home Depot Innovates Customer Checkouts. The Home Depot deploys an array of creative checkout options designed to hustle customers out the door faster.
Lowe's: Pinterest + Facebook increases engagement
10 SoMe stars Walmart, Home Depot, Nikeow.ly/btY8o
Walgreens Enlists Paid Social-Media Warriors in Battle With Express Scripts
Target, Walmart Get Digital For BTS - For stores, back-to-school kicks off the important fourth quarter, and is the second-most-important sales event of the year, after the winter holidays. But Walmart says that for parents, it may even be more symbolic, with 76% of the moms it surveyed regarding it as more of a fresh start than January 1. Nine out of 10 even make school-year resolutions, it reports, with 78% vowing they will be more organized this school year, 75% hoping to save more money, and 61% making healthy eating a higher priority.
IKEA, one of 5 all time best Facebook Campaigns via @FastCo http://ow.ly/b1XuD
Where Art & Science Meet - BJ’s Wholesale Club's CEO Laura Sen
Interesting how Michaels is using mobile apps to drive traffic in-store
Tweeting without fear with examples from @bestbuy http://ow.ly/8qtma
Retail - Department Stores and Social Media
Lord & Taylor focusing on hi-tech customer engagement tools. Check out comment about fitting rooms! http://ow.ly/6exEJ and Lord & Taylor Can Help Make Sure No One Else Is Wearing Your Prom Dress
Kohl's Broadens Its Cause-Related Efforts To TED
Nordstrom in Fashion with Social Media, Mobile Tech. Selected by U.S. News as one of America's Most Connected Companies for its use of technology to expand shopping options, Nordstrom has been aggressive about snapping up promising Internet ventures to diversify its business and experiment with new retail platforms. Its social media strategy extends well beyond Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to an array of buzz-generating fashion and photo-sharing sites. Recognizing that its customers always want to stay connected, the company introduced complimentary Wi-Fi in its high-end department stores in 2010."
Using Pinterest for niche marketing: Bloomingdalesow.ly/czv3I
JC Penney Introducing Foursquare, QR Promos for Holiday Angels programs
Macy's creates lifestyle hub with launch of mBLOG and Macy's Herald Square Awarded Best Holiday Windows in New York
Has your brand tested a Google+ hangout yet? Dell, Macy's have. ow.ly/8tHVu
HauteLook wants chattier live chat agents. When consumers shop for a Getaways travel deal, live chat leads to more conversions. [division of Nordstrom]
Battle of the Digital Brands: JCPenney vs. Kohl’s - Overall, JCP is winning in social media. Although, the numbers would say otherwise, from a social media standpoint, JCP’s social strategy follows all of the best practices for engagement. Its posts are well-thought out and do a good job of delighting consumers and addressing their needs. From a mobile perspective, it’s a tie. Both retailers are doing different things on mobile, but each is doing them equally well. Both experiences are user friendly.
Harrods builds loyalists through royalty-themed Pinterest contest
Retail - Specialty Stores and Social Media
This is interesting: Urban Outfitters makes fall catalog available via Facebook: http://ow.ly/6xQKr
More about Zara as it expands its #retailexp online http://ow.ly/6xQOI and been wondering about this: Zara play catch-up with online shoppers http://ow.ly/6tAhJ
Patagonia promotes used clothing on eBay. Environmental benefit + extends customer base http://ow.ly/6L1rg and Patagonia’s 2012 Social Media Priorities
Gap's social media policy a guide for other companies. The clothier gives its 134,000 employees a no-nonsense policy. Here are some highlights you might want to adopt.
6 lessons from Gap’s mobile journey to date
Michael Kors pushes wearability via real-woman digital campaign. Love it!
UNIQLO HIRES GRAMMY NOMINEE TO WAKE CUSTOMERS UP WITH A DAILY SONG [VIDEO] - The Japanese clothing brand engages consumers with a free social alarm app that sings about the weather of the day.
UNIQLO TAKES OVER PINTEREST CREATING ANIMATED MOSAICS - The clothing brand choreographed a sequence of mass-pinning on Pinterest to create a giant images promoting their new line of mesh clothing.
Pandora Operating Outside the Luxury Box - Customizable, affordable jewelry fuels Pandora’s growth
Four retailers who translated social media into revenue - Several retailers are getting the combo right, including DressBarn, Swisa, a high-end beauty retailer, Gymboree Play & Music, an offshoot of the children's clothing line, and Tretorn, a Swedish outdoor retailer. They each found a way to use social media to drive sales and traffic.
How Zappos uses/mines Facebook insights ow.ly/czPOc
Etsy seeks scale w/o losing aesthetic: ow.ly/bDlOJ case study
C. Wonder Retail Concept Store Debuts in New York
Express CMO Lisa Gavales shares how to turn “likes” in to sales
How REI created a local social media strategy
GUESS deploying iPads to better serve shoppers
H&M has the most-followed brand page on Google+
The Shopping Science Behind Lucky's Revamp
Battle of the Digital Brands: Tiffany vs. Zales
Battle of the Digital Brands: H&M vs. American Apparel
WebThriftStore Streamlines Charitable Giving
Thought-provoking brand examples re: H2 use Pinterest creatively ow.ly/aJixX
Most Customer Service Tweets Go Unanswered Within 24 Hours - But two retailers – Zappos.com and LLBean.com – replied to 100% of daily customer service questions posted to Twitter by STELLAService analysts in a recent 45-day study of the top 25 online retailers. It’s an impressive accomplishment considering the average for replies within 24 hours was just 44% across the top 25 online retailers.
Leveraging Loyalty: How Amazon In Fashion Creates Opportunities For Brands And Retailers -- Part 3 of 4 and Kindle-wielding Amazon dips toes into physical world
Ace hardware captures brand awareness via CAPTCHA Ads
Retail - Grocery Stores and Social Media
Tweeting without fear with examples from @wholefoodshttp://ow.ly/8qtma
Pinterest case study: whole foodsow.ly/bN3nr
Virtual Trip To 'Local' Food Market Can't Beat The Real Thing Yet
Sainsbury's using QR codes to educate shoppers about Fairtrade products
How one shopping-addict transformed retail into a story-telling experience
Supermarkets and the social Web - “So much of social media is simply the basics of human interaction."
Retailers Go Mobile and Social Media
How 6 retailers are using mobile to enhance the #retailexp http://ow.ly/6xRC1
Quick, Find a Parking Space. Shoppers Too Busy (or Lazy) To Walk From a Far-Away Spot Try Tricks, Tech to Get Closer; Even Valet Gets Swifter
How to integrate mobile into the retail experience: The Smartphone Shopping Experience Needs to Come Inside the Store
How spreading the ‘local love’ can help small retailers capture consumers’ attention
Smart retailers survive and thrive on smartphones and social networks
Square rethinks the register
Digital World Now Coaxing Shoppers Back to Stores - “But at the same time, more consumers have their mobile phones in hand so retailers who recognize that and take advantage of the phone as an information conduit to direct people to the right stores, or to find what they’re looking for at any moment in time, will be better served to succeed.”
Social networking applied to retail inventory control
What Retailers Want From In-Store Technology - Brick-and-mortar stores look to bridge the gap between online, mobile and in-store experiences. According to the Motorola Solutions data, 51% of retailers were investing in technology to improve customer service in stores. Moreover, 22% were doing so to keep up with the competition, and 18% aimed to increase inventory choices. Out of all the technology investments, in-store Wi-Fi bubbled up as a clear imperative for many retailers.
Sports and Social Media
MLB Fan Cave integrates social media with content & art http://ow.ly/76hfl
So how will social media affect 2012 Olympics? infographics ow.ly/aJhTy
How social media can help keep Olympians visible in b/n events: ow.ly/bkwah
Transportation and Social Media
Old services meet new media: a tweeting cabbie's growing business
NJ Transit Starts Tap-And-Pay Smartphone Option With Google
Tourism and Social Media
Lovely! Obermutten Goes Social via Facebook. Watch video to see how online/offline R integrated ow.ly/8ayAZ
How will you use these 200+ social media and content marketing examples and case studies? I'd love to hear.
If you come across interesting case studies, let me know in the comments and I will add them to this listing.
This article was originally published on 9/4/2012 and has been updated.
Image Credit: Great Serbian Brand on Flickr which uses social media.
How to Write a Case Study
- Find the right case study candidate.
- Reach out to case study participants.
- Ensure you're asking the right questions.
- Lay out your case study.
- Showcase your work.
Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises. Sure, you could say that you're great at X, or that you're way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.
One of the best ways to prove your worth is through compelling case studies. When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers.
To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we've put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business -- as well as free case study templates for creating your own.
Listen to an audio summary of this post:
How to Write a Business Case Study: The Ultimate Guide
1) Find the Right Case Study Candidate
Writing about your previous projects requires more than picking a client and telling a story. You need permission, quotes, and a plan. To start, here are a few things to look for in potential candidates.
It helps to select a customer who's well-versed in the logistics of your product or service. That way, he or she can better speak to the value of what you offer in a way that makes sense for future customers.
Clients that have seen the best results are going to make the strongest case studies. If their own businesses have seen an exemplary ROI from your product or service, they're more likely to convey the enthusiasm that you want prospects to feel, too.
One part of this step is to choose clients who have experienced unexpected success from your product or service. When you've provided non-traditional customers -- in industries that you don't usually work with, for example -- with positive results, it can help to remove doubts from prospects.
While small companies can have powerful stories, bigger or more notable brands tend to lend credibility to your own -- in some cases, having brand recognition can lead to 24.4X as much growth as companies without it.
Customers that came to you after working with a competitor help highlight your competitive advantage, and might even sway decisions in your favor.
2) Reach Out to Case Study Participants
To get the right case study participants on board, you have to set the stage for clear and open communication. That means outlining expectations and a timeline right away -- not having those is one of the biggest culprits in delayed case study creation.
It's helpful to know what you'll need from the participants, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick off the process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what is expected of them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:
You might be wondering, "What's a Case Study Release Form?" or, "What's a Success Story Letter?" Let's break those down.
Case Study Release Form
This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:
- A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
- A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company -- things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
- An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
- A note about compensation.
Success Story Letter
As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you'll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.
First, you'll need to receive internal approval from the company's marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It's also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.
To ensure that you have a productive interview -- which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study -- you'll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire prior to this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.
Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30-60 minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer's experience with your product or service.
The Draft Review
After the case study is composed, you'll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.
The Final Approval
Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.
Once the case study goes live -- on your website or elsewhere -- it's best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don't be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results, but their impressive growth, as well.
3) Ensure You're Asking the Right Questions
Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you're setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:
- What are your goals?
- What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing our product or service?
- What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
- What did your decision-making process look like?
- How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)
Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the "Golden Rule of Interviewing." Sounds fancy, right? It's actually quite simple -- ask open-ended questions.
If you're looking to craft a compelling story, "yes" or "no" answers won't provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, "Can you describe ...?" or, "Tell me about ..."
In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flow into six specific sections. Combined, they'll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study.
The Customer's Business
The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company's current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many employees do you have?
- What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?
The Need for a Solution
In order to tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer's need with your solution. Sample questions might include:
- What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
- What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
- Did you explore other solutions prior to this that did not work out? If so, what happened?
The Decision Process
Exploring how the customer arrived at the decision to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:
- How did you hear about our product or service?
- Who was involved in the selection process?
- What was most important to you when evaluating your options?
The focus here should be placed on the customer's experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:
- How long did it take to get up and running?
- Did that meet your expectations?
- Who was involved in the process?
The Solution in Action
The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:
- Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
- Who is using the product or service?
In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes -- the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:
- How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
- In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
- How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?
4) Lay Out Your Case Study
When it comes time to take all of the information you've collected and actually turn it into something, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What's the best way to structure it?
To help you get a handle on this step, it's important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ways to present a case study. They can be very visual, which you'll see in some of the examples we've included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.
When it comes to recommending written case studies, we recommend focusing on seven sections, which we've outlined here. Note -- even if you do elect to use a visual case study, it should still include all of this information, but presented in a different format.
- Title: Keep it short. Focus on highlighting the most compelling accomplishment.
- Executive Summary: A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You'll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
- About: An introduction to the person or company, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn profile or website.
- Challenges: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer's challenges, prior to using your product or service. This section should also include the goals that the customer set out to achieve.
- How You Helped: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
- Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically impacted the person or company, and helped achieve goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
- Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.
To help you visualize this case study format, check out this case study template, which can also be downloaded here.
When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you've gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom -- that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.
Business Case Study Examples
You drove the results, made the connect, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you're left with a little piece of sales enabling gold -- a case study.
To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.